TOWN paid heavily for a slack first-half spell and lost trialist goalkeeper Sam Russell to injury as they went down at foggy Irongate last night.
John Dungworth's side led with a well-taken goal from Paul Scott, but Preston hit back with three in 16 minutes to take control at Bamber Bridge's trim ground.
The man who did the damage was Polish striker Pawel Abbott, who helped create goals for Michael Brown and Alan McCormack and, inbetween times, watched Simon Lynch outwit the Town defence to score.
Abbott then put his own name on the scoresheet a minute from time, shortly after John Thorrington had tapped in a consolation for Town in a much-improved second-half showing.
Watching Town manager Peter Jackson saw Scott and Tony Carss complete the first full 90 minutes of their comebacks from injury, while striker Andy Booth got a solid 67 minutes under his belt - there will probably be a few aches and pains - before he was replaced by young John McAliskey, who made a couple of decent runs to put the Preston defence under pressure in the second half.
Scott took his goal well in the 14th minute, chesting down a superb 50-yard pass from Tyrone Thompson before drilling the ball low past goalkeeper Chris Neal.
It all looked so promising, but a fine run and brilliant cross by Abbott presented Brown with a back-post equaliser six minutes later and Preston started to flourish.
They established a hold with two goals in four minutes, Russell being stranded as Brown sent through Lynch on 31 minutes and then Abbott's superbly-weighted pass releasing Brown to tee-up McCormack's tap-in.
Town looked much more solid in the second half, with Chris Holland and Carss taking a grip and McAliskey's shot across the face of goal suggesting they might reap rewards.
It was a Holland break and a link with Adnan Ahmed which eventually provided the opening, Thorrington slotting home from close range after his colleague's effort had been blocked.
But there was still time for Abbott to leave substitute Town goalkeeper Jacob Giles with no chance with a left-foot volley from the edge of the box.
Town: Russell (Giles, 61mins), Thompson, Edwards, Holland, Mirfin, Scott, Mattis (Young, 90mins), Carss, Booth (McAliskey, 67mins), Thorrington, Ahmed. Subs not used: Hardy, Collins.